In 1983, the West Point area’s economy suffered from the agricultural problems caused by low grain and livestock prices, high interest rates, and ever-increasing operating costs. Bankers were concerned about loan quality, and some lost track of the importance of the needs of customers. Local auto dealers Steve and Hugh Paus sensed an opportunity to build upon the community’s pride and West Point’s strong underlying economy.
By 1985, the pair had assembled a group of local investors, received a national banking charter, hired a staff led by Steve Bell, President, and Kevin Larson, Vice President, and created CharterWest National Bank. Since its inception, our growth has been fueled by a strong commitment to the customer. Our positive attitude in lending, competitive pricing of products, and continuity in management and staff have resulted in CharterWest becoming a leader in the Nebraska’s banking community.
In 1991, the deposits of Equitable Federal Savings & Loan were purchased, which allowed the bank to fund further loan growth. Total assets approached $40 million. But, far bigger things were yet to come.
In 1999, the group purchased the First National Bank of Walthill, and later merged it into CharterWest. Our first out-of-town venture brought the banks’ assets to $80 million. The bank in Walthill gave management the opportunity to learn to grow into other communities, especially the small towns like our home town. We learned to handle multiple locations while continuing to be driven by our original vision of a customer-oriented bank, responsive to the needs of its community. The Walthill officers and staff have been a great addition to our team.
We opened our third location in May of 2000 – CharterWest of Pender. Pender’s strong economy, coupled with the need for additional banking competition, made the community an excellent prospect for our growth. A county seat town with a significant manufacturing base and its own hospital and medical clinic, Pender presented the kind of opportunity that attracts our bank. We’re proud of the job that Derwin Roberts and his team have done.
Recognizing the power of community banking, CharterWest continued to seek growth opportunities. We are always looking for a market that will provide growth potential, small-town values, and still be close to our home. Elkhorn, a fast-growing Omaha suburb, offered that combination. While still a small town, the potential growth of the metropolitan area was a strong attraction. In 2004, we built a new facility on Maple Street at Indian Creek, and asked our president, Steve Bell, to manage our new branch. Since then, Steve has retired and our Elkhorn president is Steve Tooley, who leads a great team of bankers. Elkhorn has become our second-largest location, and the hub of our metro operations.
Our bank celebrated a major milestone in 2004, crossing $100 million in total assets. In less than twenty years, we had grown from a dream into a major financial institution. A persistent focus on the needs of our customers, continuity of management, and a positive attitude continued to be the basis for our growth.
In 2005, CharterWest purchased the Nebraska operations of Major Mortgage, growing both our physical presence in the state and the breadth of our product offerings. CharterWest Mortgage Centers offer the broadest array of residential mortgages available in their markets. CharterWest’s mortgage operations, under the stewardship of Nick Brion, have been the fastest-growing segment of our business the past three years. Our original list of offices in La Vista, Columbus, Grand Island, and Hastings has expanded to include Kearney, Elkhorn, Papillion, South Omaha, West Omaha and McCook, plus two offices in Lincoln. We have over 50 full-time professionals whose only job is to offer long-term fixed-rate products from the secondary market, supplemented by the flexibility of a community bank. Our people lead the state in NIFA and USDA Rural Development mortgage production, an essential element in assisting first-time buyers and rural customers qualifying for government programs.
Our newest full-service bank, opened for business in 2013, is our bank-mortgage center combination located in the Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion. Papillion is in the middle of Sarpy County, the fastest-growing area in Nebraska, and recognized as one of the most desirable places to live in America. We, along with our branch president Pat Herrick, are very proud to join a group of business professionals who have combined the strong community spirit of a small town with the growth and potential of a modern Midwestern city. Papillion’s growth propelled our total assets to over $200 million for the first time in 2014.
Even after over thirty years, the founding principal of putting customers first still drives our bank. Since 1985, CharterWest was regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, making it a national bank. As the focus of the OCC has changed to the regulation of huge money-center banks, management and the board felt that we were being limited in our ability to respond to customer needs. In late 2015, we elected to become a state-regulated bank, and our name was shortened to CharterWest Bank. This has allowed our management and staff to keep customer needs at the top of our list of priorities.
With assets of approximately $285 million, CharterWest continues to grow in total size and in geographic service area. A bank big enough to satisfy the needs of virtually all customers, we are still small enough to know them personally. Customer satisfaction drives this organization, and always will.